Introduction: Quick and Dirty Mosquito Trap

Picture of Quick and Dirty Mosquito Trap

Mosquito season is fast approaching - make a simple trap for cheap. The theory is that the light attracts mosquitos and the fan sucks them into the bag (usually shredding them in the process). This instructable is in experimental phase and will be updated as we go (see the Science step). I release it here as a neat community science project.I hope that folks will take the base idea, add a little twist, and then get back to me with the results. I will feature people's builds and improvements with full credit to the authors so other folks can learn from each other's mistakes and successes.

This build is darn simple on purpose. I get sick of instructables that require fancy tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC machines. I, myself, was tempted to make this super elegant with a CNC-cut or 3D printed box, but I didn't. Not everyone has the money for or access to fancy tools, and I wanted to respect that. Of course, you can fancify this to your heart's content, but you don't need to.

The only tool you need for this project is a soldering iron, and you can even get around that just twisting wires. A set of wire cutters is recommended as well, but you can accomplish the same thing with a pocket knife or a razor blade and a bit of caution.

Something I mention later but want to stress here as well: This trap will kill bugs (and possibly geckos) other than mosquitos. Think about adding a grating just large enough for mosquitos and ONLY turn this on when you are outside nearby. Use it like you might use a citronella candle: don't use it 24/7 when you don't need it.

I try to keep track of people's comments and respond to them. Before commenting on something, take a look at the "Science and Comment Feedback" step and see if I address your concern/idea ;)

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need a 12V power supply (you don't need anything fancy or high amperage), a standard computer fan with LEDS built in, a mesh bag with a 6 inch wide mouth (mine is a filter bag used in fish tanks), wire, superglue, and possibly magnets if you want to mount this to something steel. You will also need a long piece of scrap anything or a popsicle stick.

Solder and heat shrink are recommended, but not required (you can twist and tape around wires if needed, it's just not as sturdy).

Step 2: Superglue

Picture of Superglue

Superglue (or hot glue...or epoxy...) your piece of scrap to the front of the fan on one of the corners. Superglue optional magnets to the other end. I actually added a second set so it would mount better to my airconditioner and not tip over.

Step 3: Solder

Picture of Solder

Cut two lengths of wire that are long enough to reach between the power outlet and where you plan to mount your trap and strip the ends. Lop the connectors off your 12V supply and your fan. Then solder the positive of your supply to one of the new wires and that wire to the positive of the fan. Do the same with the negative wires.

Note that red is positive and black is negative. There may also be a third wire on the fan that is usually yellow. You can snip that off and ignore it.

Tape or heat shrink the exposed wires. It is wise to add a bit of stress relief by making a small coil of wire and then fixing it to your mount with a zip tie, glue, or tape. This will keep your wires from getting pulled apart as easily.

Step 4: Fit the Bag

Picture of Fit the Bag

Simply slip the bag over the back side of the fan. You may decide to use rubber bands or tape to hold it in place.

Step 5: Mount and Enjoy!

Picture of Mount and Enjoy!

Mount your new creation with magnets, tape, or a couple nails. Now, just plug it in and enjoy fewer biting bugs!

Step 6: Science and Comment Feedback

A few commenters are questioning whether or not mosquitos are attracted to light and whether or not this trap will work. Great question. Answer? I don't currently know, but I believe it will work. I based this idea around seeing many mosquitos hanging out on the screens of closed windows at night last summer. When it warms up here and the mosquitos are out, I will give this a more extensive try - if it doesn't work well, I will happily brand it as "Failed Quick and Dirty Mosquito Trap" so others may learn from my mistakes. I am a scientist and will turn on a dime if things don't meet a hypothesis.

A few people have suggested IR LEDs in place of the colored ones. As luck would have it, I do have a 12V IR spotlight we can try. My guess, however, is that it will do very little. IR LEDs emit a wavelength that is different than the ones things emit when hot. What would work better is to place a power resistor in front of the fan as a heating element. I will try both in a couple months and post the results :)

That said, you can turn this into a great science project and see what you can do with it. Do different colors attract more or different kinds of bugs? Does it work better if you mount it in a tube so the light only shows out one side? Will a slow stream of CO2 from a paint ball canister make it work better? How about if you stick a piece of worn, sweaty undies by the fan to see if body odor is an attractant? (Kinda gross, but hey, it's for SCIENCE!)

Try things, message me your results with pics, and I'll post them here with full credit to you and links to your Instructables profile.

On of the commentors sent me this:
It's a similar concept but with a large box fan. It would be kind of neat if folks combine his idea with mine and threw LEDs and/or a heat source to create a super mosquito trap. It would be interesting to see if it works better or worse :)

Step 7: Disclaimer and Front Grating

Other users brought it to my attention that this trap will kill harmless insects and possibly animals like geckos that are attracted by light.

This was not something I had thought about. Where I live in Colorado, the majority of flying insects that hover around lights are mosquitos and some moths (and we definitely don't have geckos).

It may be a very good idea to put a form of "reverse grating" over the front of the trap; something with holes large enough for mosquitos to pass through but small enough to stop larger insects and animals from getting hurt.

Also only turn this trap on when you are on the back porch and actually need it (treat it like a cintronella candle maybe). No sense shredding animals and bugs that can't hurt you while you are indoors.


monkeyracing (author)2015-03-25

Thank you for making this without the aid of laser beams and Arduinos. It seems people are forgetting very quickly that our hands can make things, too.

Don't get me wrong,. I would love to own some high tech toys - they're incredibly useful - but nothing beats the satisfaction in making something from scratch, on your own, with stuff you have hanging about.

I built a hot wire foam cutting table last week for free! Scrap wood, a piece of found aluminum bar, a bit of nichrome wire someone gave me ages's awesome!

dmwatkins (author)2015-03-25

Neat idea! And good job explaining to people that it doesnt have to be fancy.

HLightning11 (author)2016-02-23

nice no-fancy-tools thing. although the people in the ad department of the site may dissagree... 3d printer ad while i type lol

HLightning11 (author)2016-02-23

cool! but if it shredds bugs, what about a plastic bag or duck tape bag?(bag made of duck tape)

pachytrance (author)2015-12-29


Vulpinemac (author)2015-03-29

I notice several people are asking the same question I'm about to ask, though there is a reason I'm asking.

Brydon points out that mosquitos are not attracted to light, which is true. Rather, aside from the chemical commentary he uses, they are also attracted to heat--or rather Infrared light which is not something you'd find on a computer case fan. Which leads to the question itself as to how effective your gadget is against mosquitos themselves.

You appear to be basing your idea on the fact that the bug zappers so readily available now are relatively effective against mosquitos--as well as other bugs, obviously. The reason isn't the necessarily the light itself, which is an ultraviolet fluorescent tube usually, but rather the heat that the tube puts out. The UV attracts other pest insects that are harmless but annoying when they land on and around people and food outdoors (hey, they have to eat too, you know). But I'll also note that it can attract bats that will be flying through the space to catch some of those insects before they get zapped. That can be frightening to someone who isn't expecting it.

So again, how effective is your lighted bag-fan against mosquitos themselves?

A_Steingrube (author)Vulpinemac2015-03-29

To be honest, I'm not completely certain. I based the idea around seeing handfuls of mosquitos hanging on on the screens of closed windows last summer. When it hits around 90 degrees out here and the mosquitos are out in force (next to none are out now), I will give it a shot.

If I find it doesn't work well for mosquitos, I will happily rebrand this as "Failed Quick and Dirty Mosquito Trap" so folks can learn from my mistakes. I may also make changes such as a simple heater resistor to make it more effective.

Vulpinemac (author)A_Steingrube2015-03-29

I have to point out that I, too, may be wrong. I read the article linked by another commenter which suggests that heat may be just as ineffective. There may be no truly effective technology device other than either 'smothering' human and animal CO2 emissions with vapors repellant to the mosquito or somehow inviting bats to the party along with the so-called 'mosquito hawks' which may be what you've been catching so far. Said article made it quite clear that bug zappers, if anything, increased the population of biting mosquitos by reducing the population of natural predators.

srilyk (author)Vulpinemac2015-03-31

I have to sadly inform you that mosquito hawks are not. It's the most depressing fact that I've learned - they're actually called crane flies, and they do not eat mosquitoes :(

Bats, OTOH, do. Bats are the best! <3

ineluctable (author)srilyk2015-08-20

And sadly bats do not eat many mosquitoes either. It's a bit of a myth. Like bug zappers, bats are much better at eating big juicy moths and leaving the minuscule mosquitoes alone. Mosquitoes make up less than one percent of a bat's diet. But I still agree that they are the best.

dan.blake.7583 (author)2015-03-29

Well the only problem I see is that, **mosquitoes aren't attracted to light**, though most bugs are (good ones, that eat mosquitos included) Those little blood suckers are attracted to CO2, they home in on Mammals that way. Gee, ever get bitten at night, in the dark !? There are CO2 based, traps out there.

And because light attracts other bugs, you cannot use it out doors. Bugs will just keep coming, and coming and......And I wouldn't want the kids around when a good sized moth flies into the chopper ! So this is one of those projects that while seemingly a good idea, in practice, doesn't work.

McAldo (author)dan.blake.75832015-07-14

I am not sure if there might be variability between species, but most definitely mosquitos in my parts of the world are attracted to light, even common incandescent houselights. When you step in a room where the light was on for a while, you'll see plenty outside buzzing against the windows. However, I agree that they are attracted to light, but not as much as moths and some other insects. We used to have an electric trap with UV lights. While effective, it ended up killing many more than more moths than mosquitos.

dgodwin3 (author)dan.blake.75832015-06-11

I think it's a great idea that will work awesome "in practice" in my garage where I want to chop up every type of bug. Also gonna make one for the house. On movie night as soon as we shut off all the lights sure enough, 5 mins in a bug lands on the screen.

klaurson (author)dan.blake.75832015-03-29

This isn't correct. Mosquitos have in lab condition to be highly attracted to certain wave lengths. Green is the best or around 500nm

geniesolver (author)klaurson2015-03-29

High school kids in Lesotho created an elegant and very effective device to trap malarial mosquitoes. Make a small slatted box (slats must be angled 45 degrees or so. Place a small solar panel on top. Connect it to a fairly slow running fan. Spray a small amount of insecticide in if you have it. Place smelly socks inside the box. (any worn, sweaty clothing will do). Mosquitoes are drawn to the sweat, cannot exit the box, and eventually die in the fan or of exhaustion, or from the poison.

solargroovy (author)geniesolver2015-04-14

This sounds pretty interesting, do you have a source you can link to?

I would disagree with you when you say mosquitos aren't attracted to light. During the summer months, I will have several camped out on the screens of my windows at night when the windows are closed and no CO2 or other chemical attractant can pass through them. That is how I originally came up with the idea.

There are definitely CO2 traps available on the market, but they are rather expensive and physically large eyesores.

I added a bit a few minutes ago about placing a front grating to keep moths and insects larger than mosquitos out of the trap.

If you are standing in your house, with mosquitos on the screen, you have CO2 , yours.

If you use this outside, you will ATTRACT bugs to your location. Use open flame for outside lighting when possable.

Angelbane (author)dan.blake.75832015-03-29

Yea the FIRST thing I do while camping is get a nice smoky fire going and stand downwind in the smoke for a while ... best skeeter repellent there is I do this and get bitten far less than with using bug repellent, although if you are in an area with much larger than normal skeeter population Id use repellent as well.

Again, the windows were closed thus ruling out your CO2 idea as the attractant in this case. I agree with you that CO2 is probably a stronger attractant than light, but CO2 traps are messy (see yeast traps) or expensive and large.

Luziviech (author)2015-07-12

ou could also combine it with this ible

as mosquitos smell the dioxide we breath out to detect their victims.

jacob.cutter.10 made it! (author)2015-05-12

This is great for our 12v system and catches so many bugs we turn it on every night!

lethax (author)2015-05-08

In the military we catch Mosquitos to test for diseases they might be carrying. We make something similar to what you have. A small fan, co2 canister(tiny) with a valve regulator and a mesh bag. Don't need light at all and the bag will be full in the morning.

betterways (author)2015-04-03

Needs a solar panel & battery. Perhaps from one of those yard lights?

aali40 (author)2015-04-03

I totally agree with you there bro, these fancy tools like CNC and 3D printers are too damn expensive :'(

seamster (author)2015-04-01

Very nice!

I like your take on the classic mosquito fan trap idea.

Aside from the LEDs, this reminds me of post I saw a few years ago:

A_Steingrube (author)seamster2015-04-02

That's a neat design! I'll throw up the link on my instructable - it would be kind of neat to see a giant box fan with LEDs and/or a heater to draw in mosquitos.

PhilKE3FL (author)2015-03-31

For what it's worth, from everything I've read, mosquitoes are
attracted to body heat and CO2, during the day, on hot summer days, they
probably find you by the CO2 you exhale, at night they can sense your body heat, infrared radiation, more easily than during a hot day. I have no idea if CO2 or body heat is used during the night, probably both are sensed at night. If you're going to use any
kind of light use an IR source not Blue LEDs. They don't need blue light sensitivity to find you since you do not give off any kind of blue light. Natural selection would probably make their IR sensitivity really good at the expense of something they don't need, such as blue light or for that matter any kind of visible light sensitivity.

A_Steingrube (author)PhilKE3FL2015-04-02

Thank you. I touch on all of these things in my instructable :)

kakashibatosi (author)2015-03-28

Do you have any photos of how many mosquitoes you've caught in the bag?

It's March in Colorado. They aren't really out yet. When it warns up and they come out, I will take pics and update the instructable.

Cool. Best of luck with your future projects, I look forward to your findings.

JeffS2 (author)2015-03-30

Nice idea! I would like to see a picture of the bugs it catches. I think this is a great idea that if you made it battery powered it could be a great back yard table bug catcher.

alcurb (author)2015-03-30

It's been my experience in the everglades at night, that all kinds of bugs are attracted to light, but I can't really say if female mosquitoes are attracted to lights too. What I saw flying around the light source were the long-legged vegetarian male mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes can smell food a long distance away and our exhaled CO2 helps them find us quickly. Once they're in close range, they look for a heat source on the surface of the skin where the blood can be easily accessed. So a heat source like a resistor might be the attractor into the cave of death at close range, but for long range, something that gives off bits of carbon dioxide would be the siren's call, so long as the mosquitoes are downwind from the CO2. I've learned that they also hunt visually looking for a moving dark silhouette against the backlight of the horizon.

Alderin (author)2015-03-30

Nice little project! I can't answer the light attraction of mosquitos, but as a Mead maker I am at least able to say that the majority of honeybees will be safe in their hives when this kind of trap is needed. I can't speak to other beneficial fliers that might be effected by this.

I will say I've always hated mosquitos, and as soon as I saw this I envisioned putting one every 6 feet or so around my house. Maybe overkill, but those little bloodsuckers are more than annoying.

Nice work. :-)

asteidl (author)2015-03-30

I love the simplicity of your ible.

Thinking about the poorest of the world, who are most at risk for Malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses, the more accessible the design, the better.

carlosacs (author)2015-03-30

Wow! Very nice!

bassman1950 (author)2015-03-30

Why not use the screws that would normally hold this fan to the computer case.

I think this would be better than gluing and more stable.

These screws are easy to come buy

samaddon (author)2015-03-30

Hey i have done some research work on this before and i know that mosquitios and bugs are attracted towards blue radiation and infrared radiations or what we call heat radiations! It's a freaking awesome projects man!

inventorsmurf (author)2015-03-29

This is a very nice concept, and a GREAT idea, but it will probably not work effectively for a number of reasons. I did a research paper on mosquitoes years ago and the answer to what attracts them is not, regular, light... though the heat from the light will have an effect.

In short, they are attracted to body temp, CO2, movement, and POLARIZED light.

It is the combination of all of the above, with the exception of the light, that allows them to tell a food source from a tree... and the light which reflects off of water is polarized, and thus directs them to a breeding zone.

Likewise, they often travel as far as 1/2 mile for a single meal... so when they were hanging out on the porch screens, they were not there
for the light, but rather were following the CO2 from your breath to
the heat source. Once within 15 feet, or so, they can see you VERY well.
So imagine half starved, miniature wolves, drooling over a rabbit in a
cage... they can see it, smell it, taste it, feel it when it exhales... but they just can't get to it.

Now, if you added a CO2 tank with a small valve to control release, and a non light heat source like a small light bulb painted black... in front of the fan........

Kweek (author)inventorsmurf2015-03-29

Does this illustrate your point? "Come To Australia" by Scared Weird Little Guys:

Kweek (author)2015-03-29

It always makes me happy to see intelligent, outside-of-the-box ingenuity like this. Well done!

maintann (author)2015-03-29

If you want to add CO2 release to the trap, you need to alternate gas release & fan or all your CO2 will be behind the trap! Some years ago the CSIRO here in OZ were trapping mossies using remote traps that used CO2 & a heater running at body temperature. They were more interested in gathering information on mosquito numbers & variations in this than keeping a bbq mossie free but it apparently caught them.

Andrew Burgess (author)2015-03-29

its possible your success is due to the heat of the fan/leds. can you tell us if you feel heat when you touch (carefully) the fan hub? the fan cools itself but maybe the center hub is glowing in the infrared. IR leds would also be fun to try.

thank you. art from stuff in junk boxes is a high form of creativity to me :-)

khelmers (author)2015-03-29

Great job, simple and to the point. Just a thought for those who might consider using different color LEDs. Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite. I found some information at the link below that may be useful in determination of the best color LEDs to use.,Kaufman,Kline,Hogsette,2009.pdf

jerry.ericsson2 (author)2015-03-29

I am thinking perhaps a few lipo batteries to run them so I needn't run wires all over the campground.

jerry.ericsson2 (author)2015-03-29

OH, I plan on making a few of these and using while we are camping since that is the way we plan on spending our spring/summer/falls from now on, being the old farts that we are....

jerry.ericsson2 (author)2015-03-29

I don't know about LED's but we have been using florescent lights for yard lights now for many years, twice or three times a year I need to empty the lenses where the bugs get caught up and die. So florescent attract bugs.

madvic (author)2015-03-29

Oi good instructable !!
Just change the leds for IR-leds
No point wasting co2 in front of a fan, not enough co2 buildup in order to trigger mosquitoe sense.

pandrews8 (author)2015-03-29

I had read somewhere that LED do not give off the correct frequency to attract bugs, further reading shows that most (remember most is NOT all) do not give out UV. I have notice that as I continually replace CF's and incandescent globes, my bug numbers have decreased dramatically. Most mossie killers are based on gas bottles as they give off co2 because that is the mossie attractor. Of course I am talking about Australian bugs, and like everything else in this country, they are bigger, nasty, poisonous and very different.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Electrical Engineer who dabbles in just about everything. By trade, I'm a controls engineer and design machines for the largest manufacturing ... More »
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